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"If you want to be a spyyyyyy like me." - Barnstorming on an Invisible Segway [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
Marissa Lingen

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"If you want to be a spyyyyyy like me." [Mar. 10th, 2012|12:08 pm]
Marissa Lingen
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Here is the really annoying thing about reading a bunch of spy novels lately: they are the only genre I have read very many of that are all written by one category of person, by which I mean men. Everything else I have read lots of, if I start feeling like, hey, this is all women or all Americans or like that, then I go and get something that isn't.

And I've already read all the Ally Carter things.

So help! Somebody tell me some good spy novels written by women!

Please note that this is a perfectly reasonable time to say, "Hey, I notice that too, I sympathize," but not really a reasonable time to say, "This one by a guy has a good woman character in it," or, "This one by a guy has noticed women exist other than as backdrops," or, "This one is by a dude and just plain good." I do not dispute that men can write good spy novels. I am glad to read them. I just also want to read good spy novels by women, and I don't see why I shouldn't get to have both. I realize this may mean that I have to write them, but, well, I hope it doesn't, is what. Or at least I hope that's not the only thing it means.
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: shewhomust
2012-03-10 06:17 pm (UTC)
Stella Rimington, former Director General of MI5, has written a number of spy novels. I haven't read any of them, they've had decent reviews, but in terms of redressing gender balance that's got to count for something.
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2012-03-10 06:34 pm (UTC)
Oh, go you! I have placed a hold on one at the library. Thanks so much.
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[User Picture]From: reveritas
2012-03-10 06:23 pm (UTC)
Does Donna Leon count? It's police procedurals set in Venice!
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[User Picture]From: reveritas
2012-03-10 06:24 pm (UTC)
But nobody is a spy -- all cops or PIs. So I guess not. Still, recommended ... if you have an empty reading pile someday. ;)
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[User Picture]From: nihilistic_kid
2012-03-10 06:41 pm (UTC)
Great question. I'm not well-versed in the genre, so I only have one recommendation and it may not be appropriate. Leslie Silbert's THE INTELLIGENCER is about spies, but it's also a "secret history" about Marlowe's spy work, so perhaps that disqualifies it.

Do let us know what you find with a contemporary or modern spy theme!
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2012-03-10 06:44 pm (UTC)
Thanks, that's not outside the envelope, although not as modern as would be ideal. I've asked the library for their copy of that too. Much appreciated.
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[User Picture]From: 1crowdedhour
2012-03-10 06:52 pm (UTC)
The best half of Manning Coles is a woman. The books become much less enjoyable after she died and the man half continued alone. Start with A Toast to Tomorrow, perhaps...
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[User Picture]From: jhetley
2012-03-10 07:39 pm (UTC)
Second the recommendation for the earlier works.
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[User Picture]From: carbonel
2012-03-10 07:03 pm (UTC)
I would in fact love for you to write a good spy novel, even though the genre in general is too noir for my tastes.

Even if you do find what you want.
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2012-03-10 07:38 pm (UTC)
This is, I promise, not going to be too noir.
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[User Picture]From: aamcnamara
2012-03-10 07:24 pm (UTC)
I believe the Mrs. Pollifax novels were written by a woman. (Though you may have read those already.)
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2012-03-10 07:38 pm (UTC)
Ten million years ago, yes; probably it would do me no harm to reread them.
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[User Picture]From: therck
2012-03-10 07:28 pm (UTC)
I don't know how possible it is to find her stuff these days, but you might try Helen MacInnes. She wrote during the Cold War and wrote several novels set around the Second World War. I have no idea how well her books have aged, but I remember liking them in the eighties, when I was a teenager.
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[User Picture]From: sillylilly_bird
2012-03-10 07:33 pm (UTC)
beat me to it :)
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[User Picture]From: sillylilly_bird
2012-03-10 07:32 pm (UTC)
Have you read Helen McInnes?
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[User Picture]From: oursin
2012-03-10 08:34 pm (UTC)
I think Ann Bridge had a number of novels in which the heroine got mixed up in spying type activities, if not actually a professional spy herself. Ditto Mary Napier.

Also have some vague recollection of Evelyn E Smith's Miss Melville books possibly falling into the relevant category (or was she a freelance assassin? haven't read them them recently enough to recall).
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[User Picture]From: shana
2012-03-11 02:58 am (UTC)
I was going to suggest Ann Bridge. And Miss Melville was a freelance assassin.

The other spy novels written by women that I know of are romance novels. Susan Sizemore's Too Wicked To Marry and I think 2 sequels are what come to mind first.
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2012-03-10 09:34 pm (UTC)
She looks pretty well guaranteed to be in at the library!
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[User Picture]From: laurel
2012-03-10 09:00 pm (UTC)
I know what you mean. Alas, I can't think of any good ones written by women, but I hope there are some out there.

Not what you're asking for, but TV and movies are more my thing, I suppose. The word "spy" makes me think of the TV shows MI-5 (a.k.a. Spooks in the U.K.), Alias (even if it has fantastical elements in it, it has kickass spy women and some eps were written by women), among others. And I just recently watched the Blu-Ray of Spy Game which is one of my favorite spy movies because it's more realistic than most. I mean, it's all about Robert Redford sending and receiving timely faxes, more or less. Heh. (I already had it on DVD, but was suckered into the Blu-Ray because it had extra features).
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2012-03-10 09:33 pm (UTC)
I have been watching MI-5 from the library, and I have Alias on my wish list, so I'm definitely not opposed to TV stuff. Today I've started watching Sandbaggers.
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From: vcmw
2012-03-10 11:35 pm (UTC)
Since you have a few spy movie/TV recommendations, I'm sort of wondering if you've seen D.E.B.S.? I enjoyed watching it but it was quite a few years ago, so I'm not sure how it held up. I remember it as being fairly charming and harmless but the suck fairy could have gotten in to it while I wasn't looking. It could be particularly amusing to compare with the Ally Carter books, because there are similarities in the setup (young girls recruited to a spy school, missions that are complicated by romance).
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2012-03-10 11:44 pm (UTC)
I am not familiar with this! And I am really amused that when I looked at the library, what I got was a biography of Eugene Debs.
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From: fitzcamel
2012-03-11 04:21 pm (UTC)
Do Dorothy Dunnett's Johnson Johnson novels count?
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2012-03-11 06:03 pm (UTC)
I don't know, do they? I have only read her historicals.
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[User Picture]From: zalena
2012-03-11 07:41 pm (UTC)
So Elizabeth Wein just published one called Code Name Verity. It's currently only available in the UK (I got it through book depository: http://www.bookdepository.co.uk/ free world-wide delivery!), but it will be published in the States in May. It's a WWII era spy novel published, ostensibly, for young adults. Her book Sunbird is also a spy novel of sorts, set in the 6C Aksum Empire about a child spy and slavery in the salt mines. (What can I say, she doesn't write easy books.)

There is also a great book called Restless about a female WWII era spy... but it is written by a man: William Boyd. It's about what it takes to get out of the game.

Also, if you haven't seen Homeland I would highly recommend it. It's about a female bipolar intelligence analyst obsessed with a POW and convinced he's been turned. How this plays out is not as you will expect it and I suspect the story still has a long (game) way to go. It's pretty dark, but also the best television I've seen in a very long time. It's led me to think that the so-called "death of broadcast television" may have been the best thing for the medium in a very long time.
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2012-03-11 08:06 pm (UTC)
I had not thought of Sunbird, but you're right, it does qualify. Thanks for the other recs.
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[User Picture]From: desperance
2012-03-12 08:29 pm (UTC)
Definitely try the Dorothy Dunnetts (confusingly, they have two sets of titles: first released in all cases as Dolly and the [something various] Bird - Dolly being a yacht, as it happens, and the Birds being the young women who take turns to narrate the books - they were reissued with dully geographical names) (except the last one, which came out coordinated with the reissues, so was called Moroccan Traffic in the UK, and Send a Fax to the Kasbah in the US). If the reissue was meant to boost sales, it didn't work. Start with Dolly and the Bird of Paradise, aka Tropical Issue, if you can.
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